Tonight was a most excellent Parsifal, the best yet. Only one more to go.
Tuesday before the evening performance, I decide for another museum, this time the Museo Civico Medievale, which I thought could be a good accompaniment to the Museo della Storia di Bologna I visited with Dasniya last week. Again set in a palace, this one being the Renaissance palazzo Ghisilardi, built in the late-15th century and containing one of the city’s towers, Torre dei Conoscenti. It’s very beautiful, with delicate arches; the upper floor ones being half the size of the lower. The museum itself is somewhere between Museo della Storia di Bologna and Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna, having the grumpy, stalky attendants with their coats and books thrown on their chairs of the former, and the smart, room-by-room exhibits of the latter.
It also has the not-so-good audio guide of the former, a combination of the same narrator (probably employed for a bulk job on all the museums) suffering from frequent, abrupt finishings mid-exposition, and either cryptically placed numbers beside exhibits or entirely absent. I discovered though, instead of searching for the numbers, I’d just enter the subsequent one and look around until I recognised what was being discussed. In this way, I found myself quite well-educated on around a third of the exhibits otherwise unmarked.
Besides that – and I found myself enjoying it for the perverse anti-social quality – it is a solid and delightful museum on its own, and in combination with Museo della Storia di Bologna gives a comprehensive introduction to the city for someone like me, an outsider with no knowledge.
It caught my attention over the many other museums for the medieval focus, covering roughly a period from 10th to 15th centuries with some overflow prior – a significant period in the city’s history, and much can be understood by examining this span. Curiously, it starts with two rooms that are not exactly this focus; the second though contains collections of from the 15th century including one cabinet full of Chinese and Japanese works. Outside that door are three Jewish gravestones and one Muslim, which were left homeless due to a papal edict.
Getting into the museum proper then, I find unlike almost every European pre-modern museum filled with religious clutter, this one has rooms and rooms celebrating the university, or more precisely the deaths of its professors. A lot of religious stuff too, though I found the beauty of it, both aesthetically and in the craft of construction caused me to put aside atheist tendencies and be overcome by the sublime. Some of these works are deeply poignant; others joyous. It’s not possible for me to devalue them merely because they have a religious theme or content.
Later, there is a small statue of Mercury, and one of Archangel smiting Lucifer – very similar to the one in Madrid. Then I arrive at war.
Into a red room, suits of polished armour, lines of pikes, hatchets, broadswords and rapiers, helmets, chain mail, jousting lances, mauls, shields, flanged maces … one suit was especially impressive, an asymmetric jousting armour with three massive, square bolts and their threads protruding from the chest, and a solid facepiece except for three tiny holes.
Continuing into the room with 15th century guns, and I was about to get kicked out. I think they are Snaphances or something similar, long-barreled, with a highly-decorative stock and ornate firing mechanism. I ran out of time here, being shooed out by the attendants, grumpy as ever. It had taken me around 2 1/2 hours to get through 17 of the 22 rooms, and missing also a proper wander around the palazzo.
I was thinking also about what makes a ‘good’ museum, and why I might not want every museum to be ‘good’. The Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna is not exemplary by current ideas of what a museum should be and do, being as an acquaintance described it, “a museum of a museum”, yet in its inaccessibility, it also provides for something other than a single superficial visit, a tourist itinerary. The museums I’ve seen recently seem to sit precariously on incomplete history, colonialism, kitsch, populism, a meta-narrative of the subject they attend to. At one and the same time, they also are beguiling and disarming in their love of their subject, the concise summary of the work of uncounted people over centuries. Perhaps one of my basic propositions – however critical I might be of a specific museum or museums, or how museums as a whole currently function – is that I do not question whether there should in fact be museums. Museums, books, art, culture, music, dance, idleness, walking, getting lost … without the arts and culture, humanity is in poverty, and for most of us it is only museums that provide direct access to this from our past.
We usually get home from the theatre around 1am, and another couple of hours for sitting around before properly sleeping means getting up at 10am to go to the theatre again was a wobbly experience. A pause for coffee and croissant and then for me wandering directly south to Monastero di San Michele in Bosco, which I found easily enough, but then my attempt to reach Parco di Forte Bandiera was a complete failure and I ended up wandering among villas along narrow, winding streets without footpaths in the hills with cars being driven with gusto. Coincidently, I bumped into Anna, one of the contortionists while standing in front of San Michele, right about where I took the photos for the panorama.
There was no applause after Act 1, so we didn’t have our aural cue over the backstage speakers to begin our final preparations. At the end of Act 2, the only sound was the rumble and grind of machinery and single voices of the tech crew. No applause. It was Valentina, the stage manager who said it was because the conductor Roberto Abbado, had asked there be no applause until the end in respect of his uncle, the conductor Claudio Abbado, who died the previous day.
This morning I read his obituary in Deutsche Welle. He is quoted, “Many people learn how to talk, but they don’t learn how to listen. Listening to one another is an important thing in life. And music tells us how to do that.” and “Theaters, libraries, museums and movie theaters are like little aqueducts,” and “Culture overcomes social inequities. Culture frees us from poverty.”
While the third Act played, we sat in our dressing room Tersicorre, the four of us eating pizza and drinking wine. Dasniya read a message from Anna (the Mad Anna) describing the first time she met Claudio. At the end of Act 3, there was applause.
A lazy day and no museums open, with Martin arrived from Freiburg, we set off for a wander southwards with the plan to climb Torri Asinelli, the highest tower still standing in Bologna, and one we pass often, being at the hub of a radial set of roads which lead variously towards home, the theatre, south, and other easterly directions. Mostly I wanted to see the city from above and see how the ragged curves of the streets resolved themselves.
The greasy, narrow, steep stairs and head-buttingly low ceilings were completely worth the 3 euros it cost to make the climb, and the damp, grey air somehow also well-suited. I’m sure it looks sublime at the height of summer, but to see it subdued also has its rewards. As for the tower, now 900 years old, it’s sad and dilapidated, far from the days when the city was full of nearly 200 similar such fortifications, impossible to say whether the gaping, toothless holes were part of the original internal floor structure or later additions and removals.
The Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna was the one Dasniya and I intended to visit a few days ago, instead, we veered off to the very good Museo della Storia di Bologna. Today I was wondering which of the few I wanted to see would be the one, and kept coming back to this, despite weird opening hours. It took me until 3pm before I arrived, so some of the exhibitions were closed. I was feeling a little shoddy after yesterday’s performance – mostly tired and in need of low-concentration type activities – so it’s probably for the best.
The archaeological collection available to the public is massive, and concentrates specifically on the Bologna region and city itself, with artefacts dating from 800 000 years ago up till the end of the Western Roman Empire, filling the first floor of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Galvani. Some of the collections are simply hundreds or thousands of similar items – stone arrow heads, decorative clay urns – packed in rows into display cabinets. Unlike the Museo della Storia di Bologna though, it’s not such a good museum if you don’t speak or read Italian. There is an English audio guide, but it’s pretty rubbish; I kept thinking the speaker was about to say more, but, no, and on all but a handful of seemingly randomly selected items he had nothing to say at all. Likewise, there’s a couple of items with English notes, equally seeming selected at random, but these are even fewer than the audio guide, which left me doing an approximate pseudo-translation at first on the copious notes in Italian, then giving up and just staring at decontextualised objects for a couple of hours.
The objects are beautiful and it’s fascinating to see the beginnings of stone tools going from crude hacking to refined blades and heads, then becoming smaller and extraordinarily delicate; the first appearances of bronze and copper, similarly becoming refined and delicate; then with the arrival of the Celts, the first glass, becoming mastered by the time of the Roman Empire. Pottery, glazing, and firing also follow this path, even becoming cruder at one time during mass-production in the Roman era. Of course I especially liked the fully exhumed graves and skeletons displayed in glass-topped coffins (and the head of Athena Lemnia).
It just felt altogether a diminished experience. Almost every item or group of items had at least a paragraph of notes which I was entirely excluded from understanding, and the audio guide, for which I paid an extortionate 4,-€ felt like a thoughtless obligation rather than an object of use, especially next to all the QR codes which seem to be the preferred method of interaction, provided one has a smartphone. For a museum which appears at the top of the list in tourist guides, and despite the quality of the collections, it offers merely superficial, casual, almost careless participation for non-Italian speaking visitors.
As for my understanding of what I was looking at, I’ve done enough reading to have the bones of an idea of the European Palaeolithic, but I’m pretty hopeless at Classical antiquity, and can’t tell Etruscan from Roman; perhaps a good choice for my next subject of study.
Arriving from the airport at the start of January, the day being lightly clouded, we could see a hill south of the city capped with a russet basilica, the Madonna di San Luca. Friday just past, being a day off, I decided I needed something non-museum and outdoors, and all maps led to the Portico di San Luca. It seemed to be about 12km walk from the apartment, foiled by a bus from outside the door which took me to Arco del Meloncello, which is where I thought the Portico began.
Up the hill, ascending 215 metres in around 2km, split between steps and incline. The arches began unexpectedly from number three-hundred-and-something, which committed me to diligently following them back to number one on the way back. It was grey, misty turning to drizzle, turning to rain. Visibility swiftly shrunk to a couple of score metres, and arriving at the last turn, the church hove into view as a hulking apparition, a derelict and holed ship run aground.
On my way up, my companions were few of the penitent kind, and rather more of the technical attire clad who tend to congregate in all places in or near cities where the geography can serve as a test of self, here divided between walkers and runners. Some chose to drive most of the way, and a small few perhaps were there for the original intent.
As for me, I was there for that last arch, 666.
Foiled by ambiguous numbering, which stopped at 658, the remaining arches depending on how counted giving a final total between 664 and 669, I decided the last before the end of the steps was probably the intended, the one with the small door. I also paused on the way down to photograph arch 616, the other number of the beast.
Back at Meloncello I followed the portico all the way back to Porta Saragozza, the south-east city wall gate. Another hour of wandering, finding a market near the theatre and generally ambling along still further porticos, and I was home.
The day after opening Parsifal, and I couldn’t even persuade myself to sleep in, so … To the Museums!
Unlike Berlin, where I live and know a reasonable amount about the city, Bologna is entirely new to me (ok, besides spaghetti bolognese). Indeed, this is my first time in Italy. I suppose this means I experience a museum in this city more as it is intended: an educational summary of a specific topic. Dasniya and I decided to go to the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna, but it seemed it would close not long after we got there. Across from Piazza del Francia we passed the Palazzo Pepoli, containing the Museo della Storia di Bologna, one of several museums that are part of Genus Bologniae. Open until 7pm and barely 2pm, we decided it would be a perfect choice for an hour or two. It was nearly closing by the time we left. I think the sheer number of photos I took and the number that ended up here illustrate what a fine time both Dasniya and I had.
This is the museum of the history of Bologna, and it goes back to the Etruscans, around 700BCE, when it was known as Felsina. It was also the city of Cassini, the Cassini, a satellite bearing his name orbiting now around Mars, who was a remarkable astronomer at a time of revolution in the field. This, and the art of building time-pieces (along with mercantile families and their ventures, and the famous university) is what the museum is built around. The Palazzo Pepoli of the family Pepoli dates back around 800 years, and while the museum doesn’t cover them as much as I’d have liked, it did devote the last exhibit in the formal dining hall to a series of 11 busts made in the 17th century of generations of women from the family, each of them spectacular in their own right.
I took an audio guide again, after my very good experience with one at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum a couple of weeks ago. It was a good decision, as all the exhibits are in Italian, though they also have information sheets in several languages in every room; the audio guide really adds a fantastic amount. It’s tempting to go through each room as a recollection here, but I think the photos capture something of that, and it’s sufficient to say I understand the city I’m working in far better than I did a few hours ago and have fallen into something of a love affair with the place, and Italy.
So, some flat notes amidst what is one of the most splendid museums set in one of the most beautiful city palaces I’ve ever been in. Despite the Pepoli women mentioned above, it’s unavoidable the museum gives a wide berth to the role of women in the history of the city. Even in the contemporary section, where 48 Bolognese are interviewed, only 5 of them are women; barely clearing 10%. Otherwise, it’s a sausage-fest, which is a pity, as the Pepoli women prove, the city has a history at least as long their family in which women play a central role.
The other, which coming from Berlin could never have been gotten away with in that city, was the exhibit (about a fifth of one of the 35 rooms) covering the Second World War. Or rather, “Liberata. Risorgere! Ai vittoriosi” “Liberation. Rise again! For the victorious”. No mention of Italian collaboration, fascism, Jews sent to concentration camps, just, “April 1945! Yay! … Oh, and the city was heavily bombed … Sad city is sad …” In Germany a museum would probably end up in prison for historical revisionism.
Besides that, this is a brilliant museum, varied and stimulating, beautifully laid out, so much attention to detail and the creative display of exhibits (a red Ducati next to a Roman chariot in the exhibit on the Roman Via Emilia trunk road!). I feel delightfully spoilt, and a little worried; if all museums here are so good going back to Berlin is going to be a torment.
Tomorrow is the premiere of Parsifal and yesterday was delightfully lazy (I walked as far as a nearby café with Bonnie and ate croissants), so today was intended to be a gentle couple of hours in the studio waking up my body enough to have some momentum for what’s coming. A couple of hours turned into three, which could have gone on even longer but more excitement was at hand.
Last time, when we were in Brussels, I met the breathing/voice teacher of Anna Larsson, the other, Mad Anna, Anna Sims. A couple of times we joined them for some breathing and four-minute pauses, out of which I sensed the dim possibility that I might be able to sing. Today, primed with coffee and those hours of yoga (much sternum-elaboration at the moment), we all climbed the five flights of stairs to the rehearsal studio we’d just been in and … well, to write about it properly would take the rest of the night. I made notes though, and seemed to remember much from the last time, three years ago, and seemed also to be able to put it to use this time.
Many questions, some dizziness (and some tips from Anna, who is almost as tall as me for breathing my way to avoiding it), some singing, humming, buzzing, much talking, joined by Bonnie around the halfway point, some really interesting discoveries (like I can sing very high notes I could never previously find my way to, even though I sensed it was just a matter of sorting out the thinking and it would work), strange, uncoordinated use of muscles and breath that were I walking would be the equivalent of forgetting how to and falling over, and three hours later we plunged back down the stairs and out. It’s days like this I’m unfathomably grateful I decided to be a dancer, for all the amazing things it’s brought me.
One hundred years ago, Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal was first performed in Italy at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and on Tuesday, January 14th, we celebrate this in the prémiere of Roméo Castellucci’s production that was first staged at La Monnaie | De Muntin Brussels in 2011.
14 Gennaio 2014 – 25 Gennaio 2014
Parsifal – Richard Wagner
Dramma sacro in tre atti
Libretto di Richard Wagner
Nel centenario della prima rappresentazione Italiana, a Bologna il primo gennaio 1914
14 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno Prima
16 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno A
18 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Domenica
21 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno B
23 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno C
25 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Pomeriggio
- Amfortas Detlef Roth
- Titurel Arutjun Kotchinian
- Gurnemanz Gábor Bretz
- Parsifal Andrew Richards
- Klingsor Lucio Gallo
- Kundry Anna Larsson
- Primo Cavaliere del Graal Saverio Bambi
- Secondo Cavaliere del Graal Alexey Yakimov
- Primo scudiero Paola Francesca Natale
- Secondo scudiero Alena Sautier
- Terzo scudiero Filippo Pina Castiglioni
- Quarto scudiero Paolo Antognetti
- Fanciulle fiore – gruppo I
- Helena Orcoyen
- Anna Corvino
- Alena Sautier
- Fanciulle fiore – gruppo II
- Diletta Rizzo Marin
- Maria Rosaria Lopalco
- Arianna Rinaldi
- Voce dall’alto Anna Larsson
- Tamara Bacci (solista)
- Gloria Dorliguzzo
- Francesca Ruggerini
- Roberto De Rosa
- Martina La Ragione
- Francesca Cerati (riserva)
- Angela Russo (riserva)
- Dasniya Sommer
- Frances D’Ath
- Bonnie Paskas
- Georgios Fokianos
- Anna Pons
- Valentina Giolo
- Ferewoyni Berhe Argaw
- Direttore Roberto Abbado
- Regia, scene, costumi e luci Romeo Castellucci
- Regista collaboratore Silvia Costa
- Movimenti coreografici Cindy Van Acker
- Drammaturgia Piersandra Di Matteo
- Ballerina solista Tamara Bacci (Gref)
- Assistente alle luci Daniele Naldi
- Video 3D Apparati Effimeri
- Maestro del Coro Andrea Faidutti
- Maestro del Coro Voci Bianche Alhambra Superchi
- Orchestra, Coro e Tecnici del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
- Coro di Voci Bianche del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
- Allestimento Théâtre de la Monnaie Bruxelles